“When Dr. Jack Willke was elected president of National Right to Life in June 1980, his organization was small but influential. … When Reagan chose the pro-abortion George H. W. Bush as his running-mate, concern mounted in the pro-life ranks. Willke decided to do something about it. He went to the Pontchartrain Hotel in Detroit, where the Republican convention was being held, and knocked on the door of Bush’s hotel room. … Willke told the vice-presidential nominee, ‘We would like you to clarify your position on abortion.’ Bush chuckled and started to answer, but Willke held up his hand and interrupted: ‘I don’t want to hear your position now.’ He asked if he could set up a time to brief him on the issue. Bush agreed to a thirty-minute meeting to be arranged when he returned to Washington.
‘I need four hours,’ Willke responded.
‘What?’ Bush said with surprise.
Willke explained, ‘Please understand that we are not going to be able to support this ticket if you are directly opposed to Reagan.’
Bush sat quietly for a moment, thinking. ‘Okay,’ he said, and invited Willke to meet him a few weeks later at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport.
In September 1980, Willke arrived in Kennebunkport with his PAC director Sandy Faucher, and set up his slide projector adjacent to a room where Barbara Bush was knitting. He went through his slides for three hours, showing Bush the stages of fetal development and the medical details of the abortion procedure. Willke responded to questions from Bush and one question from his wife (‘What if she’s raped?’).
They took a break for lunch with Bush and his staff, where they discussed other political matters. When lunch was over, Willke reminded Bush about the question in Detroit that he wouldn’t let him answer. ‘Now is the time for you to answer that question. Where are you on abortion and, particularly, on the Human Life Amendment?’
Willke remembers that Bush sat back in his chair and replied, ‘Well, I was not there before, but I am now. I will support an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Roe v. Wade. But it will have to be a state’s rights amendment. I can’t support a federal amendment.’ Willke reported the news of Bush’s change of position in his NRTL newsletter and the Reagan-Bush ticket got the full support of the pro-life movement.”
Deal W. Hudson – Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (p. 243-244).
Tags: 1980 presidential campaign, A meeting in Kennebunkport, Abortion, Deal W. Hudson, Dr. Jack Willke, George H. W. Bush, National Right to Life, Onward Christian Soldiers, Reagan-Bush ticket, Roe v. Wade